I'm no critic, but I'm learning a thing or two. Shields drops clues into each chapter before an event happens so that I'm not caught off guard by a sudden event. For example, before Larry's first wife flips out, Shields gives us clues to her state of mind. I don't want to be specific in case any of you read the book, but it's progressive throughout the chapter.
In most of her chapters, Shields also drops a clue as to what the primary focus of the next chapter will be, again, so I'm already prepared for the topic and want to know more about it. In the chapter, "Larry So Far," Shields drops in hints about Larry's son, Ryan. The next chapter is, "Larry's Kid." This keeps me turnig the pages and makes me want to dive into the next chapter.
Shields also uses lists wonderfully. Little drawers suddenly pop open in the text revealing a whole world of their own and then they close and we move on with the narrative.
To lull himself back to sleep, and keep himself from disturbing Beth - who sleeps a profound, saintly, and unsedated seven hours - he lets his mind wander through the seven spacious rooms of his house, the fastened doors, the square entrance, the stained glass in the hallway, the dining room weighted with its beamsed ceiling and side lights, the living room and its twin bay windows and smell of cold ashes from the fireplace grate.It's like looking into his life through a window.
And then, if sleep continues to resist him . . . [another list].
Shields has created a book that mirrors its main character, Larry Weller. As I read, I experience a peaceful, easy sense of being in the world. There are moments of disturbance and some surprises, but I am primarily comfortable and easy with the story, as most of the characters in the book are comfortable with easy-going Larry. She has personified him through the narrative. No easy task.